7 Of The World's Coolest Urban Beaches

berlin beach bar

Photo: YouTube/MorphiumFilm

What makes a beach a beach?In some cases, throwing a little sand on the sidewalk does the trick.

In the last couple decades, cities around the world have been creating “urban beaches,” temporary or permanent parks that offer the pleasures of the seaside without the cost of getting there.

Generally, they feature sand, reclining chairs, and a more casual dress code than your average park.

Some have sand-castle contests, dance lessons, cocktails, volleyball, concerts and more.

Check out these seven urban beaches from around the world.

Plage de l'Hotel de Ville: Saint-Quentin, France

Saint-Quentin, a city of 60,000 to the northeast of Paris, built what is considered the first modern artificial city beach in front of the city hall in 1996. Paris later adopted the idea and received much of the credit, but Saint-Quentin got there first. The beach features ping-pong, trampolines, swimming, and has its own radio station.

Paris-Plages: Paris, France

Paris's famous six-week beach installation has two prime locations: the original, on the banks of the Seine at the city centre, which was the catalyst for the urban beach movement; and the expansion, on the Bassin de la Villette in the city's hip northeast quarter.

Paris-Plages has mini-golf, dance lessons, a lending library, and of course, that quintessential Parisian park activity, boules. The downside is that with over 3 million visitors in 2011, it can get crowded. And sunbathing à la française is punishable by fine.

Havneparken: Copenhagen, Denmark

Unlike most urban beaches, the harbor baths complex at Islands Brygge was built for swimming. It features a fifteen-foot high-dive, and the water is as clean as the ocean and constantly monitored online.

On a hot summer day, people swim not just in the floating baths complex but all along the quay. Unfortunately, the average high temperature for Copenhagen in July and August is 69 degrees.

Beach Bars: Berlin, Germany

The Berlin waterfront is a bit of an exception in the urban beach community. The banks of the Spree are divided up into a series of privately-owned beach bars where Berliners sip cocktails and dance to live music. Whatever kind of beach scene you want, it's probably on the Spree. The only drawback? Private enterprise means no BYOB.

Playa Villa Olympica: Mexico City, Mexico

Here, Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard inaugurates one of the free public 'beaches' he's introduced to the capital during the Semana Santa. The idea was to provide a recreational area for the 80 per cent of citizens who do not leave the land-locked city during the popular vacation time.

Mexico City is the hottest and most populous of these cities, so you can imagine how popular these beaches are--after the success of 2007's Playa Villa Olimpica, the city has built nine more.

HTO Park: Toronto, Canada

The Beach: London, England

Since the Beach isn't open yet, we have to settle for this photo of the current Greenwich beach with a lowercase b. But let your imagination run wild: at 7,500 square meters, the Beach will be Europe's biggest man-made beach, and out of season, the promoters want to transform it into a 'heated winter wonderland.'

The main downside is that it's on the Greenwich Peninsula, which is a 30+ minute train ride from St. Paul's. It's also scheduled to host a number of private parties, including one for embattled Olympic security firm GS4.

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